Modest Mouse is much more than ‘Float On:’ what you need to know about the Vail Snow Days headliner
Everyone knows Modest Mouse for “Float On,” and rightfully so: that song is an absolute heater. There’s a reason that hit songs become hit songs, and Modest Mouse’s early brand – a variety of the “screw this, I need a drink” mentality pervasive among punky indie rock bands – shone brightly on that track.
But fans turning out to the free Vail Snow Days show might not realize that the band’s artistic range extends far beyond the wailing guitar- and drum-heavy intros on 2004’s “Good News For People Who Love Bad News,” still the band’s most widely recognizable record that gave us “Float On” and other early hits like “Bukowski” and “The World At Large.”
In recent years, Modest Mouse has experimented with different instrumentation. They released the single “Ice Cream Party” on Nov. 15, the band’s first new music since 2015’s LP “Strangers to Ourselves” which experiments more with synthesizer than any of its previous work. As evident on the deep bass and mellow BPM of “Ice Cream Party,” Modest Mouse is still holding true to what got them recognition in the first place: no-frills indie rock.
Modest Mouse formed in Issaquah near Seattle, Washington in 1992 as a devil-may-care collaboration between Frontman Isaac Brock, bassist Eric Judy and guitarist Dann Gallucci. Brock grew up poor – he started working as a janitor at age 11 – and spent his free time immersing himself in Seattle’s basement punk and grunge music. Once he met Jeremiah Green, who already was drumming for local hardcore bands as a 13-year-old, he invited the three musicians to join him on a project that would eventually become Modest Mouse.
The band takes its name from a Virginia Woolf line about common people, “modest mouse-coloured people,” and the band liked the way that described, as they put it in a 2004 interview with Spin magazine, “the low-budget folks of the world.”
In 1996, the band released its first record, “This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About,” and left for a West Coast tour the day Green graduated from high school. But it was with 1997’s “The Lonesome Crowded West” that the band started to really find its voice. It’s an hour-and-13-minutes long and most of the record wasn’t demoed and was cut live, with guitar overdubs and vocals. Brock’s lyrics became more complex and intimate.
“I’ve told him this before, I’ve always felt like he was more honest in his lyrics than he can be conversationally,” said guitarist Gallucci in a 2013 documentary produced by Pitchfork TV.
After the success of “The Lonesome Crowded West,” the band signed to a major label and worked on its next record, but at the same time that Modest Mouse was starting to gather steam, the band’s personal lives were a bit of a mess.
Brock garnered multiple DUI’s and following court-ordered AA meetings, he’d get drunk in a fit of rage and rebellion. When the band rented a house in Portland, OR to record music in, Green had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was starting medication. One night, he and Brock got in a fight and Green left the band in a daze: he reportedly drove around Seattle aimlessly. The band talked about breaking up, and recorded “Good News” with a different drummer. But once Green had overcome the worst part of his mental illness, he rejoined the band and has been with it since.
Following “Good News,” the band released “We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank” in 2007, with “Dashboard” and “Missed the Boat” as the leading tracks. They added horns to some songs and showcased a new level of polished producing on the tracks that’s incredibly obvious when you listen to it back to back with songs from 10 years prior like “Truckers Atlas” and “Cowboy Dan.”
In 2019, the band has re-emerged after a period of relative dormancy. It toured with The Black Keys and Brand New, released two singles and is embarking on this winter tour, which focuses on Colorado and the West Coast. After the show in Vail, the following night, Modest Mouse plays at Belly Up in Aspen.
The Vail Snow Days show takes place in Ford Park on Friday night at 6 p.m.
If you go …
What: Modest Mouse
When: Friday, Dec. 13, 6 p.m.
Where: Ford Park, Vail
Cost: Free, with VIP passes available
More information: Visit vailsnowdays.com.
The Lil Smokies, formed in 2009 in Missoula, Montana, have built a strong following in Colorado.